Friday, September 24, 2004

a retraction from the ethicist

I couldn't have been the only book dealer horrified by Randy Cohen (the NYTimes' Ethicist)'s column a few months back rationalizing the destruction of Medieval books of hours and the like. The expert opinion supporting book destruction was given by Glenn Horowitz, a dealer I know well enough to think it likely that his response was taken out of context. This past week Cohen retracted his original green flag to book breakers, and it was interesting to note that he mentions no book dealers (but a number of librarians and medievalists) among those who wrote in to correct his stance. I've been fortunate enough to know dealers most of my life who recoil at this common practice of map and print dealers, and who see book breaking as a method of the stupid and greedy. There are, of course notable exceptions, and I recall a recent auction at Christies, where one could feel a sigh of disappointment in the room as an established dealer noted for breaking (and not much else), took home a lovely copy of Redoute's Roses. Unfortunately, a significant part of the buying public remains driven by the whims of decorators, for whom a bird on the wall is worth more than two on the shelf.

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